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Algora Publishing - Unmanned aircraft US urged to rethink export controls on drones By Jeremy Lemer at the Paris Air Show
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Unmanned aircraft US urged to rethink export controls on drones By Jeremy Lemer at the Paris Air Show
“Countries have an insatiable appetite for drones . . . and unless something changes in US policy [UAVs] will be another area where in five years we will look back and say, ‘gee we missed the boat, the US missed the boat’,” James Pitts, who heads Northrop’s Electronic Systems unit, told the Financial Times.
Financial Times

Unmanned aircraft US urged to rethink export controls on drones By Jeremy Lemer at the Paris Air Show
By Jeremy Lemer at the Paris Air Show
   The US risks losing out in the market for unmanned aerial vehicles unless it reforms damaging and outdated export controls, according to leading executives at Northrop Grumman, the US defence contractor.
  
 “Countries have an insatiable appetite for drones . . . and unless something 
changes in US policy [UAVs] will be another area where in five years we will look back and say, ‘gee we missed the boat, the US missed the boat’,” James Pitts, who heads Northrop’s Electronic Systems unit, told the Financial Times.
  
 At present UAVs are regulated in the same category as cruise missiles, falling under the Missile Technology Control Regime, an informal grouping of 34 countries designed to prevent the proliferation of systems capable of delivering 
weapons of mass destruction. As a result, US regulators routinely deny export permits for drones.
  
 Although companies can appeal against those decisions, the process costs time and money and, in effect, cuts manufacturers such as Northrop out of lucrative foreign markets.
  
 “If we say [to customers] well you can’t have a Global Hawk . . . they go to Israel and they buy a Hermes 450. It is not quite a Global Hawk but it is pretty capable. And so that is 
one of the frustrations,” said Gary Ervin, who runs Northrop’s aerospace division.
  
 Israel is not a partner in the MTCR, and its leading defence companies have had considerable success exporting drones. Elbit has sold Hermes UAVs to the UK, while Israel Aerospace Industries has sold its Heron drones to Brazil and Germany. While Northrop had learnt to cope with many export control restrictions, in its efforts to win foreign sales, the company’s
engineering teams had been forced to adopt some “crazy” solutions, Mr Ervin said.
  
 A new, beefed up version of the Fire Scout falls foul of rules on size so the company has had to fill in some of its fuel tanks for potential international models. To prevent customers replacing the tanks, software stops the unit taking off if it is overweight.
  
 At risk are substantial revenues. In 2011 Northrop expects unmanned systems to represent about $2.5bn of 
its $28bn in total sales. Key programmes include Global Hawk, a drone able to fly at high altitude for long periods of time, and projects including Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter.
  
 Purchases outside the US could be worth $19bn over the next decade, according to the Teal Group.